One of the most frequent questions I receive is, “What should I expect for wisdom teeth recovery and healing time after wisdom teeth removal?”
The normal healing process after tooth extraction or removal includes some pain, swelling, and bleeding. While every person is different, here is a timeline of healing events you might expect:
- One to three hours: sedation wears off
- One to 24 hours: bleeding stops
- Three to seven days: pain and swelling subside
- Three to four weeks: gums cover up socket hole
- Six to twelve months: bone heals to fill socket, gums smooth out
Most patients want to know about two things: when will the pain go away, and can you fix it so food won’t get stuck in the hole? Pain is helped by good nutrition, taking your prescription medicine, getting rest, using an ice pack, and giving it time to heal. If food is collecting in the socket, use a toothbrush to dig out the food. A mouthwash is not recommended, as it can cause a dry socket. Once the gums have healed to cover up the hole, food won’t get stuck there anymore.
How easy will healing be for you, specifically? There is wide range in how different patients respond to surgery. I’ll give you an example of two extremes:
- One patient is in their mid-30s with rock solid bone. They are overweight with cheeks covering the surgery area. The teeth are deeply impacted and require a longer, more involved procedure to remove. This patient limits themselves to a liquid diet during healing, so nutrition is poor. He smokes and doesn’t use a toothbrush for a couple of days because it’s too sore. He is at higher risk of dry socket and infection. He can expect to be sore and swollen for one to two weeks, and pain medications won’t be fully effective.
- Another patient is a young teenager, age 16 or 17. The teeth and bone are still growing. They have thin cheeks and a small tongue, so there is plenty of space for the surgeon to work. The teeth are slightly impacted under shallow gum tissue. The wisdom teeth removal is quick and efficient. This patient eats a nutritious diet, avoiding sugar, tobacco, and alcohol. She is careful to keep her mouth clean during healing without cleaning too aggressively. She might be sore a couple of days with minimal swelling.
You may judge which patient is more like your situation and adjust your healing expectations to match. When patients ask about pain, often they are really asking when they can return to normal activities. Definitely plan to take the day off when you have your procedure. Many patients feel well enough the next day to go to school or work or run errands, though some patients take two or three days off. Many patients plan their procedure later in the week to include a weekend in their healing time. Wait three or more days before returning to vigorous activity like exercise or moving heavy objects.
Unusual healing problems include dry socket or infection. If you have one of these problems, you’re healing time will be doubled. With a dry socket or infection, the healing time changes:
- Seven to 14 days: pain and swelling subside
and you should see your surgeon for follow-up. A dry socket can be treated to minimize healing pain. An infection can get worse if not treated with an antibiotic.